"I liked them before they were famous." The phrase is at once a badge and memorial for early adopters. They are proud of their foresight, but then, tragically, when the rest of the world has caught up, that same pride forces the early adopter to abandon his discovery. He cannot bear to share his discovery with so many people and so he must shun that which he once loved. He will become bitter, he will say that they have "sold out," and he will shoot the messenger.
So let me shun that which I once loved. Let me shoot the messenger and say, Damn you, Jersey Shore.
I liked making fun of Guidos before they were famous.
I consider myself a scholar of the Guido. I have lived among them. I have studied their ways and mannerisms for years now, observing closely, but trying not to become involved. And here is what angers me about The Jersey Shore and the Guido becoming the nation's new punchline: you you who come from outside the Tri-State you do not understand them well enough to make fun of them yet. And even more, you do not have the necessary respect for the Guido, something he holds in high regard.
When you watch The Jersey Shore you see a crew of juiced up hedonists with outrageously tacky style and ridiculous dance moves, right? You watch each week as these classless Italians fight each other as if you're the Emperor of Rome watching gladiators at the colosseum, don't you? And you laugh at them. You laugh at their music, the clothing they wear, the enormous Map of New Jersey painted like the Italian flag that hangs in their house and the way they tawk. But do you stop to ask yourself why they listen to that music? Or why they wear those clothes? Perhaps you'd like to learn.
The Guido of today did not come into existence fully formed; he evolved. Going back to the 19th century, Italian immigrants placed a high cultural value on the ability to look good, to dress sharp, to own valuable material things. Since so many of those immigrants were desperately poor, a nice suit or a fine watch would be a sign to the others in the neighborhood and to potential mates that you were on the up and up. And so it has gone for the last hundred years. A flashy suit and fedora gave way to slicked hair and a silk shirt which then gave way to blow outs and Ed Hardy. But how has the Guido grown so ridiculous?
Because the Guido evolved in isolation.
What gave Darwin the idea of the theory of evolution was the various finches of the remote Galapagos islands. The finches of each island too far from each other to interbreed had developed physical traits each suited specifically for their island. And so it is with the Guido, in a way. The Guido is mostly located in the Tri-State New York, New Jersey and Connecticut and it is in the Tri-State that the Guido will likely grow up, grow old, and die. Because the Guido harbors no desire to leave home, to go west, or undertake any of the adventures many of us consider rites of passage, his has become an isolated culture. Ask any true Guido what he wants from life and the answer will be to get a job, marry a nice Italian girl, get a house, get a shore house, have some kids, and retire. That's it. No "I want to be a movie star," or "I want to backpack through Europe." Just a simple, happy life in New Jersey or Long Island with a little place down the shore for the summertime. So for years now, the Guido has evolved away from the prying eyes of society at large. What maybe started as a little hair gel has become a multi-hour daily ritual because nobody from the rest of our society ever pointed a finger and laughed. The Guido is like a kangaroo; when you see one without any context, it's ridiculous. When you understand how and why it came to be that way, it's still ridiculous, but at least it makes sense.
And now that you understand how they came to be, you must learn to respect them.
Why must you respect the Guido? Because how many of you can look in the mirror and truly say you are happy with yourself and your life? I know I can't. Sure, I'm fairly content with the man I've become and the life I lead but there will always be things about myself that I can't stand. The Guido has learned to filter these little insecurities out of his personality so that he is a man totally content with his station in life. When you watch The Situation attempt to pick up a woman after woman and fail more often than not all while fully aware his actions will be on TV. Is he ashamed? Of course not. He feels no shame. Having lived among Guidos for many years now, I can tell you the behavior you see on The Jersey Shore the fighting, the ridiculous dancing, all of it is not being manufactured or exaggerated for TV. If there were no cameras, if there were no one watching, they would be the same and they still wouldn't care what you think of them. They don't care if you think their hair is stupid, if their music is awful, if their clothes are tacky, their steroid use is shameful, and their culture is an all around joke because they like it and that's all that matters.
You have to respect that kind of blind confidence. I know I do.
Perhaps I am taking this too seriously. Perhaps I am a little hurt that I now have to share what, for so many years, felt like my personal infomercial of humor ("You know the Guidos wear shiny shirts, style their hair in blowouts and enjoy house music, But Wait! There's More! They're also orange!") Perhaps I'm just not ready to find something else to make fun of and, honestly, can you blame me? Once you've seen the wealth of things to pick on in Guido culture, everyone else just seems to be boring. Gay people? Meh. Nerds? Yawn. No other culture has that mix of confidence, tackiness, and absurdity I look for in a target. But this is all my problem.
As you people go forth and make fun of the Guidos, try to remember what you've learned here today: that they are not doing this to amuse you, that this is merely the latest expression of a fiercely independent culture, deeply rooted, and enormously important, in American history and that that culture, however absurd it may seem at times, deserves your respect for the mere fact that it is so damn content.
Oh, and also, I liked making fun of Guidos before they were famous.